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Washington Post's David S. Broder Discusses 'The Impossible Task of Governing'

November 12, 1993

Video Link [Download Video: "David S. Broder at DePauw University" - 4906kb]

david broder ubben.jpgNovember 12, 1993, Greencastle, Ind. - "This is, in the end, our government, and to a greater extent than many of us want to admit, it is a reflection of us," Washington Post political columnist David S. Broder told an audience at DePauw University this morning. "What it reflects, particularly at this time in our history, is our own ambivalence."

In a Timothy and Sharon Ubben Lecture, "The Impossible Task of Governing," Broder stated, "I genuinely believe after a lot of years of covering this  -- politics and government -- that for all its shortcomings, for all the weaknesses in the institutions that I've tried to describe to you, the responsiveness of the American political and governmental system is still such that when we as voters, as citizens, send a clear and unmistakable message to Washington that this is what we want done, somehow, despite all of these infirmities, the systems does tend to respond and react to that kind of signal.  But we're sending very ambivalent signals to Washington today."

The address by Broder, 1973 Pulitzer Prize winner for political commentary, took placer at 11 a.m. in East College, Meharry Hall.

The task of governing is something Broder knows well. He has covered every national presidential campaign and convention since 1960 and travels as much as 100,000 miles a year to talk with voters and to follow candidates. His columns now appear in more than 300 newspapers. He also is author of five books about politics and political journalism. His latest book is The Man Who Would Be President: Dan Quayle.

In addition to his writing, Broder regularly appears as a political analyst on CNN's Inside Politics program and as an interviewer on NBC's Meet the Press.

Here are some of Broder's recent topics:

  • President Clinton has encountered a rough start, Broder says, because he has been "hobbled by the shakiness of his 1992 victory," in which he failed to gain a majority of the vote in a three-way battle with George Bush and Ross Perot. Clinton's health-care plan may counteract that shakiness and strengthen Clinton's support among traditional, core Democrats, but, Broder says, Clinton's stand on the North American Free Trade Agreement could become for Democrats "the same kind of divisive issue that wrecked them in 1968" when the Vietnam War was the issue.
  • The president is "wobbling" on Somalia, Haiti and Bosnia, Broder says, because the international landscape has changed drastically since the last time 43988Democrats were able to call the shots on foreign policy. "Democrats... were on the sidelines as the Cold War ended, the Soviet Union collapsed, Germany reunited and Iraq's expansionism was repulsed."
  • Clinton knows the outline of his national health care plan, Broder says, but Hillary Rodham Clinton knows the details. "She may be the stronger part of the team... He [Clinton] is like the guy who walked in with a sketch of his dream house and said, 'This is what I want you to build.' She is the architect who came up with the plan."

During today's Ubben Lecture, Broder noted, "Vernon Jordan ['57] and Dan Quayle ['69] told me that this is the preeminent institution of higher learning in Indiana. And I am prepared to believe that is the case."

Broder's first newspaper job was in small-town Midwest America -- Bloomington, Illinois. From there, Broder went to Washington, first to Congressional Quarterly, then to the Washington Star, next to the New York Times. He's been with the Post since 1966.

In addition to a Pulitzer, Broder's work has earned him other prizes among his colleagues. He was named Best Newspaper Political Reporter in 1985 by Washington Journalism Review. Earlier he was labeled by Washingtonian magazine as the Capitol's most highly regarded columnist for his "overall integrity, factual accuracy and insight." And a survey of the Washington press corps East College Wide NLa.jpgby American University said of him, "He heads an elite clan whose articles are carefully watched by the public, politicians and, most important, other reporters."

Broder's bachelor's and master's degrees are from the University of Chicago. He also has been a Fellow of the Institute of Politics of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and a Fellow of the Institute of Policy Sciences and Public Affairs at Duke University.

Endowed by Timothy and Sharon Ubben, both 1958 graduates of DePauw, the Ubben Lecture Series is designed to bring the world's top leaders, thinkers and creative minds to the Greencastle campus. See a list of all Ubben Lecturers by clicking here.

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